At my request American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith kindly provided this summary of the Zerbe controversies.
I was not surprised to learn that the ANA was removing the name of Farran Zerbe from their highest award. I looked through The American Numismatic Association Centennial History (1991) to refresh my memory.
The 1909 presidential election was hotly contested. The outgoing president, Farran Zerbe, supported his vice president, Dr. J. M. Henderson, in the election. The opposing candidate was Frank C. Higgins who was supported by dealer Thomas L. Elder.
This was reported in the ANA History, page 210.
Thomas L. Elder, ANA presidential candidate Frank C. Higgins, and certain other members of the American Numismatic Association, particularly those in the dealer community, took exception to Farran Zerbe's ownership of The Numismatist and Zerbe's endorsement, along with Duffeld, of a favorite candidate for president, Dr. J. M. Henderson.
Zerbe and Elder traded their opinions and insults in the pages of The Numismatist. Elder was particularly critical of the gold-plated trinkets Zerbe sold at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. He struck satirical tokens (DeLorey 70 & 71) critical of the Zerbe LPE pieces.
This was in the ANA History, page 212.
Henderson eventually won the election, but the enmity of Elder, Higgins and others continued against Zerbe, his personal ownership of The Numismatist, and the hucksterism which they felt characterized Zerbe's numismatic activities at fairs and expositions.
Adding to the scandal was the apparent enrollment at the encouragement of Zerbe, of phony
members to the ANA roster, for the purpose of securing their proxies to influence the election results at the forthcoming convention in Montreal. No mention of this padding appeared in print until over a decade later, when the Montreal convention scandal became the subject for the reminiscences of old timers. Virgil M. Brand, America's leading private collector at the time, was so annoyed with ANA politics in 1909 that he resigned from the organization. Zerbe, with the power of the printed word in The Numismatist under his personal command, continued to call the shots as he wanted. In 1911 Zerbe cashed in and sold The Numismatist to the American Numismatic Association, apparently making a nice profit by doing so.
I suspect there could be other comments critical of Zerbe found in a thorough search of back issues of The Numismatist.
While the name change does not surprise me, I wonder why it took from January until September to make the announcement if the decision was made at an open meeting.
The ANA will be looking for a new name. The E-Sylum could be a good place for commentary and discussion.
Thanks. There would be no shortage of potential new names for the award. I'll be happy to publish suggestions, but the decision of course is up to the ANA. Meanwhile, further discussion of the history of the Zerbe matter (or any similar episode of hobby history) is always welcome.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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